Commissioner Janet Long engaged in an interactive discussion on the transportation issues that Pinellas County is facing presently and for the future. She stated that 2016 will be an exciting year for the way citizens will deal with transportation in the county and that she will soon be able to announce great news in the near future. Her major concern was the fact that many citizens involved in improving transportation methods are only worrying about the future instead of the present. Commissioner Long also discovered in a recent trip to Washington that there are federal funds waiting to be released in order to fund local transportation projects.
State Representative Darryl Rouson- a very powerful and elegant speaker, as well as the first African American prosecutor in Pinellas County, took time to speak about his past and present activities in regards to Public Policy. Leading an interactive speech, he spoke about education, gaming, transportation and a hot topic for developers and business owners – the state’s business rent tax. Representative Rouson spent time educating members about the ‘Driver’s License Reinstatement Bill’ that he is sponsoring in the House and State Senator Jeff Brandes in the upper chamber. Rep. Rouson stated that the “Driver’s License Reinstatement Bill” is urgent, due to the fact that there are many citizens without valid licenses because many of them can’t afford to pay the hefty penalty fees that come with the failure to pay right away. The end of his speech concluded the fact that he’s very proud of seeing downtown St. Petersburg grow tremendously but wants to see improvements and growth in Midtown as well. Rep. Rouson has filed for Senate- and we wish him the best of luck.
Task Force Updates
· Daryle Hamel, Sustainability Task Force Chair mentioned that St. Petersburg could potentially be the first sustainable tourism city in the United States by the end of the year.
· Ross Preville, Chair of the Downtown Waterfront Task Force explained that the demo on the Pier will be going on for another 3-4 months which exceeds the original plans of finalizing in February 2016. Ross stated that Chamber members can expect to have a presentation from the Pier uplands architect at the end of January or beginning of February.
· Diversity and Inclusiveness Task Force will be conducting minority women owned business focus groups in February to discover what services they need to be successful and if there are opportunities for the Chamber to assist women owned businesses.
· Jim Dickson from the Transportation Task Force mentioned that Ray Chiaramonte, Director of TBARTA will be the Task Force’s featured speaker on January 26th .
· Dr. Kevin Gordon mentioned that after three productive Education Task Force meetings, both he and Chamber President & CEO Chris Steinocher have had several fact-finding meetings with the Pinellas County school district, community leaders and organizations to see if a collective impact model would work in Pinellas County.
The next Public Policy Meeting will be held at the St. Petersburg Chamber on Tuesday, February 2nd at 7:30AM.